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Meet the Man Behind The Market

Meet the Man Behind The Market

FUN FACT Balshan is an amateur photographer and takes most of the photos for his markets himself.

After 27 years in Morningside, Alon Balshan opens his namesake bakery and market in Phipps Plaza

FUN FACT Balshan is an amateur photographer and takes most of the photos for his markets himself.
FUN FACT: Balshan is an amateur photographer and takes most of the photos for his markets himself.

An Israeli native, Alon’s Bakery and Market founder Alon Balshan moved to New York in 1986 with a culinary degree, European baking experience and $500 in his pocket. He soon found his way to Atlanta, and after stints at Engelman’s wholesale bakery and Murphy’s, he opened the first Alon’s in Morningside in 1992. Known for its made-to-order sandwiches and salads, plus pre-made soups, entrees and baked goods, it quickly became a neighborhood staple.

In 2008, Balshan launched a Dunwoody outpost with a large patio and an expansive selection of gourmet goods. This summer, he will bring his favorite items—including Gruyere scones, Brussels sprouts salad and lamb sandwiches—to Buckhead with a 5,300-square-foot spot in Phipps Plaza.

“There was a time when I was working 21 hours [a day]. My first Christmas, I worked 24 hours,” Balshan says. “Now I have 200 people working with me.”

Despite his large staff, Balshan still plays an integral role in the daily operations. “My office is in Dunwoody, but I am in the kitchen all the time. I’m still involved in new product, proofing the dough and experimenting for the holidays. It’s not an easy job by any means,” he says.

We spoke to Balshan about the new location and his plans for the future.

Why did you pick Buckhead for your third location?

It’s a natural progression. We have Virginia-Highland [Morningside] on the east side of town. We always had people coming from Sandy Springs, so we opened up [near] there. It was the right opportunity, the right location, at the right time.

What aspects will be unique to this store?

It’s a blend of both locations. Virginia- Highland has the cozy neighborhood market feel, but we don’t have much seating there. We will reduce the number of market items from Dunwoody in Phipps Plaza. We’ll focus on pre-made food, pastry, dessert and to-go items, so you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer and a European cafe experience.

How will this store be different, given that it’s in a mall?

This is not going to be a mall experience. There’s a beautiful garden and a 1,600-square-foot patio. We’ll open the doors wide in the fall. We don’t just sell food. We sell an experience.

How does your Israeli background influence your culinary approach?

The whole culture is from there. I grew up eating eggplant. When we opened 27 years ago, the produce guy told me I order more eggplant than all the others together. Farm to table is the only thing my mother did. We didn’t buy frozen stuff. We bought it from the market an hour away from the fields and cooked it the next day.

What are your plans for the future?

Next year, we are going to open up the Virginia-Highland space with more seating. We are now producing some of the cakes and cookies there, but we just built a wholesale bakery on Peachtree Industrial. Then we’ll be able to knock out a wall and change the configuration.

What do you do for fun?

I like to do woodwork. I play guitar a little bit. I’m getting into sailing. I like mountain biking, too. Even though I am in the restaurant business, I still like to entertain people at home. My mom loved entertaining. It’s what I do; it’s part of who I am.

Locations in Morningside and Dunwoody. Phipps Plaza outpost coming this summer.

PHOTO: Sara Hanna

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